Mental Health During the Pandemic

By: Chelsea Puetz

The beginning:

When looking back at the past couple of months, things sure have changed for everyone in more ways than one. Back in March, we received the news that our lives would be changing drastically, and no one knew for how long or quite how impactful these changes would be. It was all so sudden and unexpected, especially for those of us that were skeptical at first, in regards to how serious of an issue the virus would come to be. 

In the beginning, it seemed like a dream. Schools, churches, and businesses were closing. People started social distancing and wearing masks, and then came the quarantine. All classes were now online for the entire rest of the year. Quarantine by far was the hardest at the start because the uncertainty level I was experiencing was unbelievable. I could not stop myself from saying, “when everything goes back to normal.” Is this the new normal? Will we forever be distancing and wearing masks? How will this affect my future career and my future in general?

This fixation with the past and uncertainty about the future is the perfect recipe to make anyone anxious. Learning to cope with these changes going on around us is something we have all been forced to do. Everyone copes with stress differently, but how can we be prepared to cope with stress in the most unexpected of situations? 

How do we cope:

I struggled at first in finding things to occupy myself with during this time. Quarantine was especially tough in adjusting to isolation and the changes going on around me.  Getting things done was a lot harder. My schedule was not as full as it used to be, and I never had to get ready or go anywhere, especially since all my classes were online. I value my social life and relationships with friends and family, so being away from it all was extremely difficult. Keeping myself busy is usually the way I like to get my mind off things, but being stuck at home, I found it much harder to occupy myself throughout the day. Sleeping all day, occasionally facetiming friends, and doing schoolwork was not enough to keep me motivated. I’m sure I am not the only one who felt empty, lonely, and stressed beyond belief. Anxiety levels were at all time high and on top of being locked up inside with nothing to do, the uncertainty of the future and obsession with this idea of getting “back to normal”  was overwhelming. 

So many of the various articles, blogs, and social media posts that I have been seeing talk about dealing with this problem during the pandemic. One of the most striking ideas that I came across involved a way of seeing this “new normal” as our way of adapting as humans. In an analysis by Nick Paton Walsh from CNN, he explains this idea of “normalcy bias”. This is what we do when we say that things will soon be “back to normal” and that we refuse to accept these changes in our lives as more than just temporary things. Walsh also discusses how humans can adapt to these changes. Washing hands more often and more thoroughly, wearing masks everywhere we go, and social distancing are things that we have been doing for quite some time now. Sometimes I forget to even take my mask off when I get into my car or go outside. These things are now a part of my daily routine. 

In taking this information into consideration, adapting to our “new normal” is going to take time. So what can you do? I find it helpful to stay away from the news if you are experiencing high uncertainty or anxious thoughts during this time. While the news can be informational at times, it is important to make sure that you are getting your information from reliable sources. Be mindful when watching, listening to, or reading the news. Things are not always as they seem. Secondly, being productive can keep your mind off things and enhance your life in many ways. Lots of people I know tried getting new hobbies or even starting a diet. I think that focusing on yourself is a great idea. I personally started exercising more, getting outside and in touch with nature, and also eating healthier.

One of my favorite go-to websites for finding inspiration is https://myselflovesupply.com/. They have blogs, quotes (on their instagram page), and helpful products to assist in their mission of positivity and self love. 

 Hobbies to try include cooking or baking more, learning how to play an instrument, doing yoga or some type of exercise, or the increasingly popular journaling. Laying around all day was not helping with my mental health at all whatsoever. In the beginning, I felt lazy, tired, and unproductive at all times. I hated it. Even with having nowhere to or nothing to dress up for, having a routine is something I found extremely helpful, and I still find it helpful everyday. Waking up around the same time each morning and making your bed first thing is a great way to start out the day. Drink lots of water, maybe some coffee, eat a yummy breakfast, and get the day going by making a to-do list. Start getting things done and feeling good about yourself again. Facetime your friends and family or start a zoom call. Make a list of things that make you happy that you are grateful for. Take each day one step at a time and do not be afraid to reach out for help when you need it. These things, from my experience, are guaranteed to get you through the next pandemic. We are all in this together, and I know it’s hard, but looking back to the start of it all, recognize that you have grown as an individual throughout this time. Be proud of that.